Diane Lane's Tuscan Holiday Home
Based upon Frances Mayes' amusing memoirs and starring Diane Lane "Under the Tuscan Sun" is a charming movie, delivering delightful views of Tuscany and painting a quirky, yet stereotypical picture of life in sunny Italy. Although it's not completely predictable, delivering a couple of unexpectedly entertaining twists, "Under the Tuscan Sun" comes across as a bit cliché with scenes reminiscent of other movies which have taken us abroad to picturesque regions of Europe. Does that really matter? Not at all as "Under the Tuscan Sun" has a warmth and a glow which resonates from the lovable, amusing story which makes you smile and lust for that carefree life in the sun thanks to the wonderful Tuscan vistas, Italian villas and Diane Lane's glowing performance.
After learning that her husband has been cheating on her San Francisco based writer Frances (Diane Lane - Unfaithful) finds herself living in an apartment block with a mismatch of other divorcees. Depressed and suffering writer's block her best friend Patti (Sandra Oh - The Night Listener) cajoles her in to taking a holiday in Tuscany. Except the holiday turns into more than just a few weeks away when in a spur of the moment decision Frances buys Bramasole, a run down Italian villa near the quaint town of Cortona and starts her new life under the Tuscan sun making a whole new bunch of friends along the way.
When watching "Under the Tuscan Sun" you get a feeling that director Audrey Wells knows exactly what she is doing and wants. She never veers from a well worn formula and delivers the form of sun lit escapism that people want when they watch this type of movie. There is no stark realism to what is going on, no real scenes of depressiveness or gloom even when early on Frances discovers that her husband has been cheating on her there is a touch of humour to the state she finds herself in. Instead we get the picture of a fantasy life, the one that many people dream of, the "Shirley Valentine" life that is to escape the drudgery of reality and start a fresh in a picturesque country where the only urgency is when to eat and how to enjoy life.
Being so formulaic is normally an issue for me, I generally dislike movies that don't try to bring anything new to a genre, but with "Under the Tuscan Sun" it doesn't matter. In fact part of its charm is in that you know what you are going to get, from the shots of stunning Tuscany, Italian villas etched with characters, cliché scenarios and scenes as well as a whole array of stereotypical characters. Although that final one is not exactly true as there are a few characters such as Lindsay Duncan's performance as Katherine the ageing and somewhat eccentric Italian film star as well as Pawel Szajda who plays a Polish worker that add surprisingly enjoyable elements to the mostly paint by numbers storyline.
The reason for me why "Under the Tuscan Sun" works is in its star Diane Lane and also in the excellent views of the Tuscany which makes you fall in love with the region. Diane Lane is one of those rare actresses who can seemingly be coasting through a movie but yet deliver a performance which makes the movie special, which is most certainly the case here. Everything Diane Lane does feels completely natural and unforced, even in the most cliché of scenes or the unexpected such as a tastefully shot sex scene just feels right, combining amusing with touching. In fact "Under the Tuscan Sun" doesn't feel like the story of Frances Mayes but the story of Diane Lane as she starts her new life in Cortona, Tuscany and I will be honest she made me want to pack my bags and start that life in Tuscany with her.
Combine Diane Lane's effortless warmth, with the beautiful Tuscan landscape as well as a charming soundtrack which feels again some what familiar as if the pieces had been picked from the same movies that the cliché scenes had come from and you have a movie which oozes charm from start to finish, familiar but also entertaining.
What this all boils down to is that "Under the Tuscan Sun" is easy on the eye, easy on the mind yet completely enjoyable to watch, leaving you with that urge to escape the drudgery of life and start a new life in Tuscany with the suns warmth leaving a permanent smile to your face. Diane Lane is a delight through out and it's the sort of movie which although not intentionally is surprisingly inspirational as it makes you want to change your life and reach for your dreams.